EMMERDALE’S James Hooton only went on the famous soap to clear his debts and was meant to last just eight episodes.
To think that after selling socks to try and make ends meet, he has now played the role of the hapless but lovable Sam Dingle for 25 years, a remarkable achievement for the 46-year-old.
James Hooton 23rd National Television Awards in 2019
At Christmas in 1994, Wooton used to sell socks and handkerchiefs with his Dad in Leicester city centre.
After being on the soap for a quarter of a century, James hopes to stick around for 25 more years.
He told The Mirror: I found Id got the part and by January I was on the telly. It was fantastic.
What makes his story even more remarkable was the fact that he was only supposed to film eight episodes on the ITV soap.
After barely having a penny to his name, the initial small role turned into something far bigger and playing the ditsy member of the Dingle clan Sam has become a career.
Sam Dingle comforting his life Lydia in Emmerdale
He said: I didnt think this would be a career-defining role.
I was travelling to London for auditions a lot and I thought, This is great, Ive got eight episodes on a soap. Ive got the train fare to London for the next couple of months sorted and Ive cleared my debts.
I saw it as a means to an end.
I was invited back after those eight episodes and here we are, 25 years later.
The star has admitted to getting nervous about whether his character will get killed off.
He said: I have a family and two children to bring up.
My job means stability and paying the mortgage.
Im having a renaissance period with the show and enjoying it more now than ever.
Id like to think Ill be here for a good few years to come. But 25? Yeah, maybe so. If I stayed another 25 years.
I would love to see the Dingle clan still going in 25 years. They will have taken over the village by then, there are so many of them. Theyll be running amok.
James Hooton is in great shape and shocked co-stars when he posted this picture in 2018
The soap star recalled his first first scene on the soap on January 10, 1995.
We were outside the Woolpack and we were nicking stuff,” he said.
We nicked a metal bar. My very first line was, Lift it! What do you want this for anyway?
I was welcomed in. I got on really well with Steve and Paul on the first day. I met the rest of the gang and settled in straightaway.
He also revealed that the Dingle family all have a good relationship off-screen and there were times when the laughs and jokes they had would occasionally spill over into filming.
He said: I was in a Woolpack scene with them. Sam had a cockerel he was struggling to get under control. Im at the bar, covered in cuts, with blood on my hands because this cockerel has attacked Sam.
Stan had a line where he said, Right, what youve got to do son is, youve got to grab your cock.
It was the biggest double entendre ever. We just could not get through the scene for laughing. The more he said it, the more we were gesticulating in a rude way.”
“He couldnt get the line out. It took us about 45 minutes to do the one scene. Thats one of my stand-out memories it was hilarious.
Ex-wife Rachel is distraught as Sam is led to a police car on Emmerdale in 2014
Dopey and slow-witted Sam Dingle has been married, become a dad, been in trouble with the police, fallen in love on more than one occasion and always looked out for his family.
Wooton’s favourite story-lines are when Sam helped his wife Alice die after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the domestic abuse story involving Rachel.
But what fans do not know is the 46-year-old almost quit the Yorkshire Dales.
He said: “Then my second daughter was born and I turned around and thought about the reality of leaving the job.
I probably would have been away doing a theatre tour.
Sam looks horrified during an episode of Emmerdale in 2010
However the actor has really enjoyed his work the last three years and could not believe he even considered leaving the show that gave him the opportunity of a lifetime.
He said: The best part of doing my job is I get to go home every night. It helped me re-focus. I slapped myself round the face, and thought, What are you thinking? Ive really enjoyed the last three years. Im happier at work now than Ive ever been.”
The show has had a real renaissance recently. The last two years weve won every award going.
Its been wonderful to see the show getting recognised in that way. I was around in the lean years when we won nothing.
James said he was sad to see actress Jane Cox, who played Lisa Dingle for 23 years, leave the soap after she tragically died from a terminal heart condition.
Sam Dingle has found love once again as he is engaged to Lydia Hart, played by actress Karen Blick.